Tribal Sovereignty, Decolonization, and Abolition: Why Tribes Should Reconsider Punishment


This Comment outlines the intersections of abolition theory and decolonization theory, and then proposes that Tribal Nations become leaders in reconsidering systems of punishment and instead create systems of care and liberation. It argues that because abolition is a decolonial project, tribes should adopt abolitionist practices in their own communities. Part I provides an overview of the history of incarceration and policing of Indigenous peoples. Part II maps out what tribal sovereignty and criminal jurisdiction currently looks like for Tribal Nations today. Part III analyzes abolition theory and decolonization theory, its intersections, and how the goals of abolition meet the goals of decolonization. Lastly, Part IV lays out a proposal for why and how tribes can replace the current criminal legal system modeled after the U.S. carceral system in their communities with tribal restorative and transformative justice systems, becoming a leader for the rest of the United States.